Scorsese’s next entry with De Niro, Pacino, and Pesci is a hardcore masterpiece.
Martin Scorsese is a filmmaker who knows what gangster movies are. “Mean Streets,” “Goodfellas,” “The Departed,” and “Casino,” among others-all classics, because of his unique style and old-fashioned vibes. As a young film critic, I find it entertaining to travel back in time to study his work, and he knows his material and sources.
His next feature, “The Irishman,” is yet another brilliant piece of filmmaking-representing the honesty and brutality of politics and gangsters being unholy partners. This is one you’d want to see a second time.
Robert De Niro (reuniting with Scorsese for the first time since “Casino”) stars as Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran, a WWII vet and mob hitman, who recalls his early years of getting in on the action. We meet him as a meat truck driver, who meets Russell Bufalino (Joe Pesci back in the saddle again), and enters his tribe-the Bufalino Crime Family.
He then crosses paths with Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino), the President of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, whose corrupt practices has gotten himself in and out of prison. Frank may have something to do with his later disappearance.
Steve Zaillian’s screenplay of Charles Brandt’s memoir (“I Heard You Paint Houses”) keeps the characters at a steady pace. There’s a lot going on in its 3 hours and 30 min frame with all the politics and crimes, but at the same time, you’re still able to grasp the main characters and their ambitions. Mainly that of Frank, Jimmy, and Russell.
De Niro is back in his territory, following his recent bombs “Dirty Grandpa” and “The Comedian.” Why? Because Scorsese is one of the few courageous filmmakers to guide him on the right path to pure brilliance. And this genius has finally been given the opportunity to work with Pacino, and along with his returning star Pesci, it’s just so riveting watching these legends work together on the same film.
De Niro is riveting when we see him digitally younger than his current age, and when we see him reflect on his past in a retirement home. Those scenes are beyond tender. Pacino has all the guts and glory as Jimmy, especially when he shouts at his crew and talks business with Frank. And Pesci is outstanding as Russell in the ways he isn’t just the fast talker but a low key gangster with words and motivation. I smell Oscars.
The movie’s all-star ensemble also includes Bobby Cannavale as a mobster who has a memorable scene with someone he dislikes; Anna Paquin as Frank’s estranged daughter; Ray Romano as the lawyer Bill Bufalino; Sebastian Maniscalco as gangster Crazy Joe; Jesse Plemons as Jimmy’s boy, who saves him from a courtroom assassination attempt; and Harvey Keitel as the boss of the Philadelphia Crime Family. Out of these people, Romano delivers some dangerous dialogue, while Paquin keeps her reserved behavior on a somber level, and Plemons has a funny moment where he doesn’t know what kind of fish he bought.
The movie looks like it was made in the 90s, because of Rodrigo Preito’s (“The Wolf of Wall Street,” “Brokeback Mountain”) cinematography. He paints the characters and their scenes with such a radiant look that it feels less like a Netflix movie, and more like a Scorsese opus.
I saw “The Irishman” at the New York Film Festival, and I was basically guessing throughout this picture. Yes, I knew someone would get shot or go to prison, and I knew when cars and buildings would explode. But I never knew how much it’s committed to the world of politics and organized crime. I just can’t stop saying it: it’s a Scorsese picture, and an epic one at best.
And I want to sure assure you: you won’t be a disappointed dunsky with this one. You’ll love it. Don’t miss it.
Opens in New York and Los Angeles November 1
Coming to Netflix November 27